Archives for November 2011

Arthur Christmas

Marie-Louise Muir | 07:58 UK time, Sunday, 20 November 2011

I've just seen "Arthur Christmas". Yes, I know the dreaded C word shouldn't really be uttered until at least next week, but, rather than brave a wet playpark with my offspring, I took the selfish option and opted for seats, popcorn (for them) a coffee (for me) and 1 hour 46 mins of 3d distraction. And you know what? It was worth it. It's from the Wallace and Gromit Aardman Animations stable, but with extra money and Hollywood muscle under its belt. And it's that extra money that interested me. Especially when, in one scene (spoiler alert), the eponymous Arthur crash lands in an English village and for about 5 seconds glides past (it has been snowing) a Co-Operative Foodstore. You couldn't buy that advertising. Or maybe you could? So I checked online, putting in question  "Why is the Co-op in the new Arthur Christmas movie?". And there hasn't been that much mention yet. But on Twitter @rupertjones declares product placement is all the rage, from a Nationwide ATM in Corrie to "a Co-op store makes bizarre appearance in new film Arthur Christmas". 
If Aardman didn't get money from the Co-op they missed a trick. What an amazing way to advertise and to get a film made.
Recently on Arts Extra I had Cahoots NI on. They're the incredibly talented children's theatre company based in Belfast, run by Paul McAnaney. "Egg" was their latest production, an incredible tour de force of mime, music and puppetry. My two-were spell bound by it. But what interested me was the local egg company, Skea, who had come in behind Cahoots to finance the shows. It was a win-win situation, Cahoots got cash to stage a super show, Skea got PR and the chance to openly promote their new egg range in the foyer of the Lyric Theatre Belfast. A few years ago, the idea of openly celebrating a sponsor would have been seen as somewhat vulgar. Yes, we'll take your money, just don't ask us to have to say your name at every turn. Now, in the face of government funding cuts, the idea of openly seeking your own patronage is pretty much the only way to see your creative idea realised. The Foyle Film Festival is a case in point, having for many years been the Seagate Foyle Film Festival, this year it kicks off with no Seagate and a radically reduced programme. While Arthur Christmas slid past the Co-operative Store, I stopped off at mine on the way home. Sublimal advertising or what?

A little bird told me...

Marie-Louise Muir | 16:13 UK time, Thursday, 17 November 2011

I've been tweeting like mad over the past week. @bbcartsextra. I've gone from zero interest to late night addiction. I even tweeted as a colleague drove me through the rain and fog over the Glenshane Pass last night. It is addictive. I would have been better served supporting her with encouraging words. But my initial reaction was to share it with the people following me. That is bizarre behaviour.

So far, I have learned that @rickygervais has been in the US and gleefully doesn't care about the reviews of "Life's too Short". Today is the birthday of @wossy (Jonathan Ross). He's 51. @neilgaiman wished him well. @joanbakewell is having difficulty remembering her passwords. But my favourite, so far, is @markohalloran - Irish playwright - and man of words...."It's a soggy wet tart of a day " All the more reason to hunker down and put your life, moment by moment, into 140 characters. Or maybe I should just talk to someone? 

Video killed the radio star

Marie-Louise Muir | 17:37 UK time, Monday, 7 November 2011

MTV changed everything when it started broadcasting in America in 1981. It's simple concept of airing music videos 24 hours a day seven days a week took off and had such a profound effect on the music industry and popular culture that it could make or break an act.

"Ladies and Gentlemen, rock and roll" were the words that launched MTV on the 1 August 1981. The Buggles’ "Video Killed the Radio Star". I have very strong memories of this video, and countless others, from Duran Duran to Ultravox, The Eurythmics to Dire Straits. In 1981, we had just moved house to Derry a matter of months. I was 11, and if I'm honest, it was my brother who would watch it all the time. We were hooked on it, so much so that it would take us a while to realise someone else was in the room with us. Our house on Clarendon Street used to be a dentist and a few of the dentist's patients didn't know he had moved on, and would wander in off the street and sit down beside us and watch MTV with us, probably thinking that this had become a very plush waiting room. My mother eventually locked the side gate.

But I was the MTV generation. Last night at the Odyssey Arena Belfast, I realised I wasn't. The side gate of my MTV experience was shut. In reality it shut about 20 years ago, but somehow I hadn't got it. In a world of tweets and status updates, I thought I knew Justin Bieber, Lady Gaga and Katy Perry, but I know the gossip, not their music. And I am not a fan. So while the true fans screamed, danced, took photos and screamed, I sat there unmoved.

Now if it had been Peter Gabriel doing "Sledgehammer", Aha and "Take on Me "or, best of all, Kim Wilde "Kids in America", I would have been on my feet. That's why I probably shouldn't have been there last night, and the young man who approached me outside who said he had come from Spain to see the show but didn't have a ticket, should have been in my seat. But for tonight, my feet are up, the fire is lit and I will be watching the finale of "Downton Abbey".

MTV EMA

Marie-Louise Muir | 20:43 UK time, Saturday, 5 November 2011

Yesterday I took my mother, my two daughters and their wee friend to the Merchant Hotel to pick up tickets for the MTV awards. There was a crowd of young people outside, bordering on hysteria as they waited (apparently since 5.30am to see the "Stars" arrive). They only got me, my ma and three children who were beyond themselves with excitement just to be "up the town". A very nice lady from MTV came down and handed me a yellow envelope.

Inside, two tickets, wrist bands for the aftershow party and a glossy brochure welcoming me to the 2011 MTV EMA in Belfast. I felt like Charlie in Roald Dahl's "Charlie and the Chocolate Factory" getting the golden ticket to Willie Wonka's chocolate factory. The glossy brochure has that "just printed" new smell, so much so that I had to stop sniffing it as I realised that I was sniffing Justin Bieber's photograph. I showed him to my mother who thought he was a lovely looking young man. As we left the hotel, I found myself hiding the envelope under my coat for fear of being jumped by a Bieber fan.

I'll be there tomorrow night as the plus one of Pulitzer prize winning poet Paul Muldoon, someone I never thought was interested in Lady Gaga but then you never really know someone, do you? I'll be facebooking and tweeting from the event, live from 2000. Now what to wear? Jacket and jeans, or dress and full works? It is November in Belfast and at my age comfort is key!
Administrator note - Marie-Louise cannot get on to facebook tonight at the MTV EMA event so we are hosting her posts at the Radio Ulster facebook site instead.

Jeffrey Eugenides

Marie-Louise Muir | 13:46 UK time, Wednesday, 2 November 2011

I had a miscarriage in January 2004. It was my first pregnancy and the grief of that loss was overwhelming. I went back home to my parents' house in Derry to recover. I didn't want to talk to anyone, didn't want the sympathy, however well meaning. I remember hiding in a book of all things. My brother had bought me for Christmas a hardback copy of Jeffrey Eugenides' Pulitzer prize winning novel "Middlesex". It was a mighty tome of a book and the strangest, saddest story of a young child Cal born as both male and female. I lived for that book. Every day I would devour it, forgetting my own sorrow in the telling of this amazing boy/girl child. The heartbreak of it spoke to my own heartbreak. His/her pain was as raw as mine. I was cocooned by it.

Seven years on, I am now reading Jeffrey Eugenides latest book "The Marriage Plot". It's his first book since "Middlesex". Seven years on from reading "Middlesex", I have two children and live a good life in Belfast. I want to tell him how much his book helped me, but I don't think I will.

Meeting Michael D Higgins with my new Purdy Bob

Marie-Louise Muir | 16:46 UK time, Tuesday, 1 November 2011

I met Michael D Higgins, the President elect of Ireland when I was a child. I must have been about 8 years old at the time, and a very small child as Michael D Higgins seemed like a giant man. He's not. The word "diminuitive" is widely used to describe him. It 's a bitter sweet memory. Higgins was campaigning on the streets of Dundalk on a busy Saturday afternoon and my dad, who was active in Northern Irish politics across the border in Newry,  took me  to meet him. But I was preoccupied with something else. Earlier that day I had had my very long hair cut up short into a "Purdy bob".  It was the must go to hairstyle of the day, as pertinent to contemporary culture as the Rachel from Friends shag was to the 90's. But for me it was traumatic. I felt shorn and blamed my mum who I believed (and probably still do) couldn't be bothered dealing with the early morning school run hassle of plaiting, brushing, etc.

As I felt my dad's hand in my shoulder blades gently shove me towards Michael D, I felt a lump in my throat thinking he never knew me with long hair and now I look like Joanna Lumley from the New Avengers. 

The day I met the future President of Ireland and the day I lost my locks.

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